MOHAWK – Sixth-grade students at Jarvis Middle School put aside their books and computer screens for the afternoon Thursday, to be kids and play in the snow – and learn a few life lessons along the way.
At one end of the park, a group of bundled, mask-wearing students worked on sculpting a soccer ball and foot, at another, a rabbit took shape. Another team, inspired by fast approaching Valentine’s Day, sculpted a heart complete with red and gold glitter. The snow sculpture contest was judged by Jarvis Principal Charlie Pratt and Assistant Principal Jessica Bowman. But really, the focus of the day was simply getting outside and giving students a taste of normalcy, said sixth-grade English teacher Colleen Bunce.
“It’s so good to be outside and off computers,” she said. “It’s so cool to see them outside, having fun and just being kids.”
The project served as a learning experience as well. Leading up to the day’s competition, the 120 in-person students broke into groups and planned their projects. They decided what to sculpt, what tools they would need to complete the project and what they might need to bring in from home. Then, as the students began their work in the snow, some were faced with difficulties, thus improving their problem-solving and troubleshooting skills, Bunce explained.
“More than once out here, I’ve heard, ‘This isn’t working. Let’s try it this way,’” Bunce said. “It’s satisfying to see them all happily working together and figuring things out.”
She pointed out that between social distancing and other pandemic restrictions and a portion of the student body learning virtually from home, sixth grade today does not much resemble sixth grade a couple years ago. It has been difficult for teachers to stick to their usual schoolwork timeline and make it through all the coursework they usually covered in years past. Equally difficult has been the usual hands-on activities and team-building skills, made nearly impossible by social distancing restrictions.
“We worried the principals and guidance counselor might not want to take time away from the classroom when we already have such difficulty getting through everything,” Bunce said. “We were so relieved that they loved the idea and were right on board with it. And to see all these kids outside in the sun and fresh air now, playing in the snow; there’s no problems, no fighting. And they’re learning those soft skills like teamwork.”